RAF Cosford

Royal Air Force Cosford or RAF Cosford (formerly DCAE Cosford)[1] (ICAO: EGWC) is a Royal Air Force station in Cosford, Shropshire, just to the northwest of Wolverhampton and next to Albrighton.

RAF Cosford
Near Cosford, Shropshire in England
Runway 24 at RAF Cosford
Seul le premier pas coute
(French for 'Only the first step is difficult.')
RAF Cosford
Shown within Shropshire
Coordinates52°38′42″N 002°15′20″W
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 22 Group (Training)
Open to
the public
RAF Museum only
Site history
Built1938 (1938)
In use1938–present
Garrison information
Group Captain Gareth Bryant OBE
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGWC
Elevation83 metres (272 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 1,127 metres (3,698 ft) Asphalt



RAF Cosford opened in 1938 as a joint aircraft maintenance, storage and technical training unit.[2] It was originally intended to be opened as RAF Donington (the parish in which it is located) but to avoid confusion with the nearby army camp at Donnington it was named after Cosford Grange House which was located at the south western edge of the airfield.[3] It has remained mainly a training unit to this day. The Fulton barrack block was built just before the Second World War as the largest single building barrack block in the UK. The block was named after Captain Fulton (an early Air Force pioneer) and paid for by his widow, Lady Fulton.[4] It is a listed building and is now used for technical training.[5]

No 2 School of Technical Training was formed in 1938 and during the Second World War it trained 69,420. airmen in engine, airframe and armament trades. No 2 School of Technical Training was subsumed into the No 1 School of Technical Training when it moved to Cosford from RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire.[6]

In the Second World War No 12 Ferry Pool of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was formed at Cosford. This unit delivered Spitfires from the base and returning with bombers or fighters for No 9 Maintenance Unit. Ferry flights were often flown by women pilots. Amy Johnson came to Cosford on more than one occasion.[7]

In 1940 after the Fall of France a depôt was established at RAF Cosford for Free Czechoslovak personnel joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.[8]

The airfield was originally a grass strip.[9] In 1940–41 there was a bad winter in which landing heavy aircraft such as Vickers Wellingtons and Avro Ansons turned the strip into a mudbath. Thereafter a paved runway was built that was 1,146 yards (1,048 m) long and 46 yards (42 m) wide.[10]

A substantial Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service hospital was established at RAF Cosford, the most westerly such RAF hospital in the UK. It consisted of wooden spurred huts. It was the main centre for repatriated prisoners of war, processing more than 13,000 by 1948. Many from the Far East had to remain for long term-treatment.[11] The hospital was open to the general public as well as servicemen and women. It was closed on 31 December 1977 and demolished in 1980.[12] For the three summers between 1978 and 1980 the empty hospital formed the venue for annual training camps for the Royal Observer Corps, with wards and theatres converted into barrack accommodation and training rooms.[citation needed]

The extensive sports facilities at Cosford, located around a banked indoor running track, became well known nationally through televised annual indoor championships that featured top athletes from all over the world.[13]

Defence Training Review

A Grob G 115E Tutor operated by No. 8 Air Experience Flight RAF posted to RAF Cosford.

Following the UK Government's 2001 Defence Training Review (DTR), the Ministry of Defence proposed handing over armed forces skills training to a private sector bidder for a 25-year term, and it was announced on 17 January 2007 that the Metrix consortium had been awarded Preferred Bidder status for Package 1 of this programme. As a consequence, it was anticipated that all technical training would move from Cosford to Metrix's main campus to be built on the RAF St Athan site over a 5-year period from 2008.[14] This in turn was deferred with no anticipated move from Cosford to St Athan for DCAE and No1 RS staff and trainees before 2014–15 at the earliest. For those other training schools, headquarters and units at present at Cosford, decisions were yet to be made about their future location.[15]

On 31 January 2008, the Government announced that when 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade withdraw from Germany they would move to Cosford. It was also noted that Metrix proposed to establish a Learning Centre and Design facility at the Cosford site.

In December 2012 the Government announced training facilities from RAF Cosford would be moved by end of 2015 to the site of the former RAF Station at Lyneham as part of the projected tri-service Defence College of Technical Training, in common with Army and Royal Navy training facilities that would also be consolidated on the site. However, on 15 September 2015, the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon announced in Parliament by written statement that the Lyneham site would only be used by the army and that Cosford would not be closed and remain as a separate RAF training establishment which would be given extra work, with a fourth training school (No 4 School of Technical Training) moving to Cosford from MoD St Athan in south Wales. The announcement was described in local media as "a Government U-turn".[16]

No. 633 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, which operated the Grob Vigilant T1, was disbanded in November 2016.[17]

Based units

A Grob G 109B Vigilant Motor Glider which was operated by No. 633 Volunteer Gliding Squadron at RAF Cosford.

Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Cosford.[18][19][20]

Royal Air Force

No. 22 Group RAF

No. 38 Group (Air Combat Service Support) RAF

RAF Museum

RAF Voluntary Bands Association

  • RAF Cosford Voluntary Band


Role and operations


Schools currently stationed there include: No. 1 School of Technical Training, No. 1 Radio School RAF, the Defence School of Photography and the RAF School of Physical Training. Flying units include the University of Birmingham Air Squadron, No 8 Air Experience Flight and The Wales and West regional headquarters and West Mercian Wing headquarters of the Air Training Corps are situated there, along with No 2497 (Cosford) Squadron of the ATC.

Cosford became part of the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE), which was formed on 1 April 2004. Other units located at Cosford include elements of the Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS), the Defence School of Photography (DSOP) and the RAF School of Physical Training.

The Defence College at RAF Cosford came under the Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DCTTP) and as such, with effect from 1 October 2012, was renamed the Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE).[1]

Air Ambulance

RAF Cosford's airfield site is home to one of the Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters. The first aircraft arrived on site in October 1991 with two other platforms based elsewhere in the region. Cosford remains the operations hub for the service.[21]

RAF Museum Cosford

There is also the Aerospace Museum at the site, which is a branch of the Royal Air Force Museum. Amongst the large collection of military aircraft is a unique collection of research and development aircraft, including one of two existing examples of the TSR2, a multi-role combat aircraft, controversially scrapped by the Wilson Government and still a point of discussion within the RAF. There are also collections of missiles and airliners.

The Cold War Exhibition opened on 7 February 2007 by former prime minister Baroness Thatcher and HRH Princess Anne.[22] Exhibits include the only collection of three V bombers (Valiant, Victor and Vulcan) in the same place in the world.

RAF Cosford Air Show

Cosford Air Show
The Red Arrows performing at the 2013 Air Show
GenreAir Show
Date(s)Second Sunday in June[23]
VenueRAF Cosford Airfield site
SponsorRoyal Air Force

The Cosford Air Show is the only Royal Air Force air show that is officially supported by the Royal Air Force in Britain[24] after the closure of RAF Leuchars and the runway resurfacing at RAF Waddington[note 1] meant the air shows at those respective bases were stopped.[25][23] The event is held on the airfield of RAF Cosford and regularly hosts flying and static displays which attract more than 50,000 people[26] and is generally held on the second Sunday in June of each year.

An air show at Cosford was first proposed in 1978[27] and continues to the present day. The event was cancelled in 2003 due to an inability to secure enough serving military aircraft. The war in Iraq had meant that most aircraft were deployed operationally and the RAF could not commit to the air show.[28] The runway at Cosford is only 1,200 yards (1,100 m) in length[29] so most flying displays will either arrive on the day or stay overnight at RAF Shawbury which has a 300 yd (270 m) longer airfield.[30][31][23]

The air show varies from year to year, but mostly consists of flying and static displays, fun fair rides, concession stands, food outlets, trade stands[32] and also serves to raise money for charity whilst also being seen by the Royal Air Force as a recruitment event as part of its wider public engagement role. Recent years have seen the promotion of STEM events[33] with guests such as Carol Vorderman highlighting the STEM approach.[34] All profits raised at the event go to supporting officially recognized charities by the air show committee[35] with the event in 2016 raising £115,000 for RAF charities.[33]

In 2013, Prince Harry, as part of No. 662 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, took part in the Apache helicopter demonstration at the air show.[36]

In 2018 Cosford hosted the only official RAF airshow dedicated to the centenary of the Royal Air Force. Its flying line up was displayed in chronological order starting with aircraft used in 1918 right through to current day aircraft used by the RAF. It also featured several international displays including a Polish Air Force Mig 29, a French Air Force Rafale, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 and a Belgian Air Force A109

The show also boasted a massive static display detailing the RAF through the years including a F4 Phantom, multiple Tornados and Harrier aircraft and as well as Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Blackburn B-2

Because of the restricted access by vehicle, all roads into the Cosford site become one-way with traffic flow inwards on the morning of the event and outwards on the afternoon and evening of the event. Sometimes the M54 suffers tailbacks and queuing and the slip and access roads have to be closed due to the site reaching its 18,000 vehicle parking limit.[37] The local train operator, Arriva Trains Wales, have a deal whereby a combined rail and air show ticket offers a discount and allows users direct access on foot to the air show event.[38] Cosford railway station is next to the main crash gate access point onto the eastern edge of the airfield.[39]

There is an aspiration to make the air show run over two days as a perceived rival to the Royal International Air Tattoo which attracts 150,000 spectators.[33]


Station badge and motto

The RAF Cosford Badge is adorned with an oak tree and the motto is Seul Le Premier Pas Coute, which translates as Only the Beginning is Difficult.[40] The oak tree is symbolic of the nearby oak at Boscobel which King Charles II took refuge in after the Battle of Worcester.[41] The idea of this association is that of being from little acorns, great oak trees grow (from trainees the airmen of the future grow).[42] This badge was also shared with the No. 2 School of Technical Training until 1986, when the School adopted a new badge with the iron bridge of Ironbridge on it and the motto of Scientia Pons Perpetuus Est which translates as Knowledge is a Lasting Bridge.[43]

Built heritage

The station's Fulton Block, a combined barracks block, institute and mess, was grade II listed in December 2005. Built between 1938 and 1939 as permanent accommodation for 1,000 personnel, it was designed in the Moderne architectural style by J H Binge, of the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings.[44]

Station Commanders

The following are the Station Commanders for RAF Cosford, DCAE and DSAE Cosford.

Date Name Date Name Date Name
July 1938 Group Captain W J Guilfoyle August 1978 Group Captain D G Campbell July 2020 Group Captain G J Bryant
November 1939 Group Captain W Budgen October 1980 Group Captain W F Mullen
November 1940 Group Captain J McCrae October 1982 Group Captain T J Morgan
February 1942 Group Captain W D Clappen September 1984 Group Captain M W Windle
February 1943 Air Commodore C E H Allen September 1986 Group Captain R M Best
September 1946 Air Commodore P S Blockley October 1988 Group Captain M Van Der Veen
June 1948 Air Commodore R J Rodwell October 1990 Group Captain M G Yeates
January 1952 Air Commodore W L Freebody November 1992 Group Captain M J Gilding
October 1953 Air Commodore R J Pilgrim-Morris April 1995 Group Captain S B Schofield
April 1956 Air Commodore J R Mutch February 1997 Group Captain A J Smith
May 1956 Air Commodore R Harston September 1998 Group Captain D N Williams
March 1959 Group Captain A W Haswell July 2000 Group Captain A J Burrell
November 1961 Group Captain L H Moulton July 2002 Group Captain A J Young
May 1963 Group Captain C S Thomas April 2004 Air Commodore S R Sims
November 1965 Group Captain H Durkin October 2006 Air Commodore N W Gammon
July 1967 Group Captain H A J Mills March 2009 Air Commodore C H Green†
April 1970 Group Captain W M Smedley May 2011 Group Captain J B Johnston
August 1972 Group Captain C L Parkinson April 2013 Group Captain A M Sansom
January 1975 Group Captain A Thirkettle July 2015 Group Captain M Hunt
August 1976 Group Captain R L Smith June 2017 Group Captain A J Baker

† Died in office May 2011.[45]

Accidents and incidents

On 4 March 2000, Julian Paszki of Wrekin Gliding Club was killed when his Ex-RAF Chipmunk aircraft crashed. The aircraft was seen to veer left and dive into the ground despite being only 30 feet (9.1 m) in the air at the time. Mr Paszki was pulled alive from the wreckage but died at Selly Oak Hospital later that same day.[46][47]

In popular culture

RAF Cosford is the location for James May's Toy Stories, where the BBC's Top Gear presenter constructed a 1:1 scale Supermarine Spitfire in the style of an Airfix kit with the help of students from the Thomas Telford school and Air Cadets from the ATC.

See also


  1. The airshow at Waddington was cancelled and has been reborn at RAF Scampton; however, the Air Force Board only support the Cosford Air Show directly within the RAF.


  1. "RAF - RAF Cosford Present". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  2. Philpott, Ian (2008). "RAF stations, airfields and other establishments". The Royal Air Force - an encyclopedia of the inter-war years. 2, Re-armament 1930 - 1939. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. p. 293. ISBN 978-1-84415-391-6.
  3. Brooks 2008, p. 49.
  4. Clarke, Bob (2007). "Four; Realisation not rationalisation - expansion policy 1933-39". The archaeology of airfields. Stroud: Tempus. pp. 92–94. ISBN 978-0-7524-4401-7.
  5. Historic England. "Fulton Block  (Grade II) (1407287)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  6. Delve, Ken (2007). The Military Airfields of Britain – Wales and West Midlands. Marlborough: Crowood Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1861269-17-1.
  7. Brooks 2008, p. 54.
  8. Janoušek, Karel (1942). The Czechoslovak Air Force. London: Inspectorate-General of the Czechoslovak Air Force. p. 20.
  9. Brew 2009, p. 5.
  10. Brooks 2008, pp. 52-53.
  11. Brooks 2008, p. 57.
  12. Brew 2009, p. 6.
  13. Brew 2009, p. 95.
  14. "Uncertain future for RAF Cosford defence base". BBC News. 24 June 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  15. "RAF Cosford present". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  16. "RAF Cosford future is safe after U-turn". Shropshire Star. 15 September 2015. p. 1.
  17. "633 Volunteer Gliding Squadron". Facebook. 20 November 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  18. "RAF Cosford – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  19. "No1 School of Technical Training". RAF Cosford. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  20. "Corps of Army Music". British Army. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  21. "Midlands Air Ambulance History". Midlands Air Ambulance. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  22. "High life for painters at museum". Shropshire Star. 27 April 2016. p. 5.
  23. "RAF Cosford Airshow 2017 Flying Display Programme - Military Airshows in the UK - Hotel Accommodation". www.military-airshows.co.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  24. "PREVIEW: RAF Cosford Air Show 2017 | UK Airshow Information and Photography - Flightline UK". www.airshows.org.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  25. "RAF Cosford Air Show By UK Airshow Review". www.airshows.co.uk. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  26. "50,000 flock to RAF Cosford Air Show 2016". Shropshire Star. MNA Media. 19 June 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  27. "Air show called off". BBC News. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  28. "Interest 'high' in RAF air show". BBC News. 28 March 2004. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  29. McLelland 2010, p. 86.
  30. McLelland 2010, p. 203.
  31. "Unusual air activity at RAF Shawbury". www.raf.mod.uk. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  32. "Air show returns to county". BBC News. 26 December 2003. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  33. Williams, Simon, ed. (7 April 2017). "Cosford goes for the double". RAF News. High Wycombe: Royal Air Force (1416): 9. ISSN 0035-8614.
  34. "Carol Vorderman Returns To Cosford Air Show". www.raf.mod.uk. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  35. "RAF Cosford's 75th anniversary marked at air show". BBC News. 9 June 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  36. "Prince Harry shows off Apache helicopter tricks at airshow". Daily Telegraph. 10 June 2013. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  37. "Record crowd at Cosford Air Show". BBC News. 14 June 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  38. "Air show train service decimated". BBC News. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  39. "More trains to ease show traffic". BBC News. 17 March 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  40. Reyburn, Ross (2 December 2000). "Down Your Way: A sound base for training; Cosford offers more to the community and the RAF itself than just the famous air show". Birmingham Post. Trinity Mirror. pp. 8–9.
  41. "Story of England - Charles The II and The Royal Oak". English Heritage. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  42. Howells, F (2000). "100 Years in Albrighton". Chat Histories: 58.
  43. Joyner, Andrew (1994). "Royal Air Force Cosford The War Years". Cosford: Royal Air Force Cosford: 9. OCLC 810764883. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  44. Historic England. "Fulton Block, RAF Cosford (1407287)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  45. "RAF Cosford station commander's funeral held". BBC News. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  46. Hudson, Jenny (4 March 2000). "Mystery over flight launch pilot's death". Sunday Mercury. Trinity Mirror.
  47. "Inquiry after pilot dies in mystery plane crash". Birmingham Post. Trinity Mirror. 6 March 2000. p. 4. ISSN 0963-7915.


  • Brooks, Robin. Shropshire Airfields in the Second World War. Newbury, Countryside Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84674-105-0.
  • Brew, Alec. RAF Cosford. Stroud, History Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7524-5211-1.
  • McLelland, Tim. Action Stations Revisited: Wales and the Midlands No. Manchester, Crecy Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-0-85979-111-3.